Calhoun for the 21st Century

John C. Calhoun is often regarded as the American Hitler, so much so that both “conservatives” and progressives go out of their way to portray him as the supreme evil doer in American history.

If it just wasn’t for that Calhoun, America would have been perfect!

This belief is a component of both the “proposition nation myth” and the “righteous cause myth” of American history.

The first suggests that America was founded on the “idea” of equality and as such, Calhoun’s speeches and positions were heretical to that idea. See President Brandon’s recent speech against MAGA Republicans.

The second argues that the War of 1861-1865 saved America from the heretics and forged a new Union dedicated to the proposition nation.

Lincoln made that myth popular, though he said that he never went to war to free slaves or to make anyone equal, at least not in the way we use that term today. This was a war on Calhoun. The Radical Republicans both constantly invoked his name as a pejorative, and as the spirit of disunion and treason. He was the “father of the Confederacy.”

This was and is a ridiculous conclusion. As Jefferson Davis pointed out, Calhoun was never a disunionist. He dedicated his entire political career to the preservation of the Union. That was the point of nullification. Nullification was designed to keep the Union together, not break it up. Even South Carolina fire-eaters thought Calhoun was too soft on secession.

But the most recent biography on Calhoun by Robert Elder supports the assertion that Calhoun and the Confederacy are synonymous.

He also argues that you can draw a straight line from Calhoun to Dylan Roof.

Both positions are laughable.

Calhoun is a statesman for any age. His positions on government, diplomacy, war, and economy still have currency today.

Hence, a new book by the Calhoun scholar in the Untied States, Clyde Wilson, Calhoun: A Statesman for the 21st Century.

You need to get this book. Dr. Wilson spent most of his academic career editing the Calhoun Papers. If anyone knows Calhoun, it’s him.

I discuss Calhoun and Wilson’s new book on episode 700 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

Subscribe to The Podcast

Comments are closed.